Following on from announcements about the ban on selling petrol and diesel vehicles being pushed back to 2035, some of you may have seen that the DfT have been busy and released their new and 2023 appropriate “Plan for Drivers”.
Whilst this isn’t being badged as anti-sustainable travel, the tone of the document is certainly pro driver. However, making parking easier, reducing bus lanes or how long they are operational, removing LTN’s, halting “15-minute cities” and rolling back on more 20mph streets are all mentioned in the plan, and all have a direct impact on encouraging people to travel actively and sustainably. Following this, it will become increasingly difficult to promote more sustainable modes ahead of car travel. Whether we like it or not, road space in this country is a straight up competition between vehicles, public transport and active travel. By going back to a pro-driver way of thinking, it naturally takes away from all these other elements that are driving positive change on our streets and within the developments we are all working on.
The plan sets out how “some drivers feel under attack”. This rhetoric undermines the good work that has been done to create better spaces. No one has ever set out to abolish the car, just for it to be less dominant. The transition to electric vehicles is extremely important and charging facilities, as pointed out in the plan, are emerging at a good rate. Developments continue to be designed with road space, allowing access for all types of vehicles and where appropriate, parking spaces continue to be provided. This, however, seems to be lost in the balance of the argument and it is being seen as a war on the motorist, when really it is meant to enable a better range of greener, healthier and in some cases, cheaper options to travel, particularly when LTN’s help to reduce rat running and 15-minute cities help provide amenities on people’s doorsteps.
There could be direct impacts for our clients and their developments. The Easier Parking section references revising guidance on the public’s right to challenge local authority parking policies. Should this lead to controlled parking zones being repealed, there will be a huge knock-on impact on street parking surrounding developments. There’s also a lack of clarity on just who we should be prioritising. We’ve been constantly told to invert the transport pyramid and promote walking and cycling, but where does this leave the car? Are they also now back at the top of the pyramid and is there even a pyramid left? Again, if we are still encouraging driving, it will result in higher vehicle trip rates, potentially more impact on local road networks and in turn more money spent on mitigation. Widening roads and junctions is typically more expensive than active travel infrastructure.
If there are any questions on what this all means and the impacts it will have, please feel free to get in touch with anyone in the transport team. Once we’ve calmed down, we will be happy to help.